Our SCBA’s function at around 2250psi. Other companies have bottles that are rated 60 minutes of air and go to 4500 psi.
Obviously, these are both high pressure. The air is passed to us through a regulator that drops the pressure to an on-demand level that is more appropriate.
When we get to the point when we can’t suck any more air from our masks, it does NOT mean that the tanks are empty. It means that the remaining air level is so low that the air pressure is not enough to open up the regulator.
To get that last bit that can hold us for 1-2minutes until a RIT/FAST can get to us we first go prone. Then we take off our facemasks and airpacks. Shut off the tank air valve. Dismount the air cylinder from the SCBA unit. Place your mouth over the valve stem and then slowly crack open the tank air valve and inhale. There will be a small amount of air left in the tank. Not much, maybe 60-120 seconds worth if you’re careful but sometimes that’s enough. Here we are getting the briefing on the technique and trying it out:
I had to be available in downstate NY for something, so I went down there last night so that I could get up at 6am for this thing. Unfortunately I had to crash on the floor of an overheated apartment and thus got very little sleep.
Took care of what needed doing and drove the 2 hours back home, getting in around noon.
I crashed out on a couch and had HouseHold6 making lunch when I got toned for a mutual aid call into the neighboring district.
Running on about 4 hours of sleep I took a nice little shed/garage fire.
We pulled up and the place was burning to beat the band. It had spread to create three very distinct and separate fires: the garage and it’s attached livestock pen, a nearby wood pile and then several hundred feet of brush.
The greatest challenge in rural firefighting is Water Supply. Unlike the cities where you have a hydrant every 500 feet or so, my water supply is much less reliable. I carry 1,000 gallons on each truck as my immediate supply. The idea is that while I’m burning through that 1,000 gallons –somebody- is finding me more. Doesn’t always work like that. Usually while we are making the initial attach, one truck will wander off in search of a water supply; a hydrant if we’re lucky, a dry hydrant (basically a piece of 6 inch PVC running from a pond), a stream, a creek, the occasional swimming pool. On one call we nearly drained a golf hazard dry.
If that water source is within say a mile or so of the fire and it’s a big fire we’ll drop a mile of 5 inch Large Diameter Hose and run that from supply to scene. Otherwise we’ll have multiple tanker trucks, each holding 3,500-3,500 gallons, start shuttling water. When they get to the fire scene, they dump their water into portable ponds (basically big fold up kiddie pools that can hold 3,000 gallons each and be daisy chained together) set up on the road. Then we draft from the portable ponds.
Then you get a call like today. A nice big pond a ¼ mile away that we’re all set to draft from when we get a transmission for the 1st Assitant Chief that there is an even bigger pond right next to the fire!
We pull up and the neighboring company has already driven so close to the pond that their bumber overhangs the waters edge. They’ve got 20 feet of hard suction hose out with a floating dock at the end. Every other truck ties into that truck with 5 inch LDH and we’re off to the races. Unlimited water! It’s like having an M240 with an endless belt and watercooled barrel.
We’re all packed up because even though it’s an exterior attack, it smells bad. No telling what’s burning in there. The metal roof is collapsed. I put down my handline, grab a pike head ax and wade in. I use the pike ax to punch a hole in the roofing and use the ax as a way to drag the sheets of metal away. Underneath is the firefighters trifecta ofgoodies: LP gas containers, aerosol cans and cans of gasoline.
Finally the fire is knocked down, the trees are extinguished and overhaul is done. Then we engage in another aspect of rural firefighting that the city guys seldom have to do: we help the homeowner round up the surviving chickens that got loose from the livestock pen.
All in all, an enjoyable call. We could have done a few things a little better. Some things we did exceptionally well. My arm gave me a couple of twinges, but nothing major. I was ale to pull down the roof, fight a 2 ½ handline and generally do what I needed to do. Went through 2 bottles of air.
Back to the firehouse to clean and repack hose, refill air bottles and perform the decidedly unglamorous details that will allow us to make the next call. All my gear is hanging up now to dry. I think that I may have to start looking a some new gear in another year or so. It’s rated to 10 years, but I’ve had mine up to 1,000 degrees and I use it hard and a lot. At minimum, I need new boots and helmet suspension.
A man walks into a pet store and is looking around when he spots a Chimpanzee in a cage marked, "$1000". The man looks a little closer and discovers that the chimpanzee is wearing a T-shirt bearing the Maltese Cross and is cleaning a fog nozzle. Curious about this, the man summons the storekeeper and asks him what the deal is with this thousand dollar monkey. "Sir, You have discovered our Fire Service Monkeys". This one is our Firefighter version. It has a Basic Firefighters certification with IFSAC seals, is also a Licensed Paramedic, can perform vehicle extrication, high angle rescue and is up to date on current CPR standards. A very good value for a thousand dollars.
The man is suitably impressed and moves to the next cage, which is occupied by a gorilla- also wearing the same T-shirt, but is gnawing on a pen and reading training manuals. The storekeeper states, "Sir, You have discovered the Captain model. This one has an Advanced Firefighter certification, is capable of training the other monkeys in basic firefighting skills, and can manage any emergency scene. It can also type. A very good value for five- thousand, Sir."
Impressed, the man moves to the last cage. Inside, he finds an orangutan, dressed in a white shirt and a tie, but holding only a coffee cup. The man says, "What does this one do that he's worth $10,000 ?" The storekeeper clears his throat and says, "Ah, sir, well, um... we have never actually seen him do anything except drink coffee and makes a lot of noises, but he says he's a Chief."
Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFL) On June 18, 2008, BC602 ran a house fire where the occupant reported a haze of smoke in the structure. The first Engine reported an electrical odor at the top of the basement steps that had the distinct odor of light ballast. Initial investigation both visually and with a Thermal Image Camera revealed no unusual hazards. The house contained no “traditional” fluorescent light fixtures. The occupant informed us that they had installed CFL bulbs in numerous fixtures and lamps throughout the house. We began the process of checking each bulb and found one in a ceiling fixture that had a ballast failure much like we are accustomed to finding in traditional overhead tube lighting fixtures in commercial buildings. A CFL bulb contains a ballast at the base of the unit between the spiral tube and (Edison) screw. This ballast, encased in a plastic shell, may or may not have visible vent holes or slots. The ballast contains a Voltage Dependent Resister that, when failure occurs, opens like a fuse to protect the device and associated electrical equipment. The resultant heat and smoke should escape from the vents in the housing. Light smoke may be visible and one will smell that distinct electrical ballast odor. As in the case the other night, there were visible smoke marks and a small, brown oily/gooey residue at the vent holes. These signs were not visible with the bulb in its socket. Since more CFL bulbs are finding their way into the home, don’t overlook these items when investigating a smoke odor. BC Allen Colby